Digital skills in the workplace: EU4Digital working on Digital Competence Framework for SMEs and microbusinesses

  • Date: 14/09/20
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The EU4Digital Facility is working on a common Digital Competence Framework for SMEs and microbusinesses in the Eastern partner countries, based on existing EU frameworks. The Competence Framework aims to support the improvement of digital skills among employees of SMEs and microbusinesses.

Digital competences play an increasing role in all industries and sectors, as the lines between ICT and non-ICT roles increasingly get blurred. Professionals in SMEs and microbusinesses often perform multiple job roles and/or inter-sectoral job roles, including ones requiring varying levels of digital competence.

The Digital Competence Framework for the Eastern partner countries is based on the EU’s Digital Competence Framework for Citizens (DigComp) and the European e-Competence Framework (e-CF) – the most commonly used competence frameworks that cover digital skills.

The two frameworks can be used to describe digital competence starting from basic user level (DigComp) to expert user and ICT professional level (e-CF). 

DigComp describes what it means to be a digitally competent citizen by using 21 different competences. Digital competence is defined as a key transversal competence which entails being able to use digital technologies in a critical, collaborative and creative way. 

The e-CF provides a common reference source for ICT professionals, and was developed through a collaboration between various ICT sector experts and stakeholders. E-CF describes 41 competences related to ICT business processes.

The development of digital skills among the workforce of microbusinesses and SMEs is of vital importance, as SMEs are key players for the economies in the Eastern partner countries.  In Eastern partner countries, SMEs account for 99% of all companies, though they represent just 57% of private sector employment. In contrast, in the EU, SMEs represent a significant driver for employment (85% of new employment created). 

To harness their full potential, entrepreneurial and fast-growing SMEs in Eastern partner countries will require multiple digital competences, such as big data analytics and tools, cloud computing and visualisation, mobile app design and development, web development and tools, IT architecture, and security skills.

In response to this need, EU4Digital is now working on a Competence Framework that would help to establish common language for digital competences and support the development of career and learning paths. The Framework will consist of three elements:

  • Methodology describing the development methods, process, and the objectives of the Competence Framework.
  • Guidelines for the use of the Competence Framework for SMEs and microbusinesses in Eastern partner countries.
  • Selected Job Role Profiles including the key competences and skills for carrying out specific job roles within an SME or microbusiness, as selected by the Digital Skills Network.

SMEs and microbusinesses in Eastern partner countries have varying number of employees, industry sectors and digital competence levels. The Competence Framework aims to be applicable to the majority of SMEs and microbusinesses in Eastern partner countries, regardless of sector, enterprise size and digital competence proficiency level. 

The Framework will utilise existing EU frameworks, while supporting their integrated use and adaptation to the needs of Eastern partner country SMEs and microbusinesses. Eastern partner country experts are engaged throughout the definition of Job Role Profiles, Guidelines and Methodology. The EU4Digital Facility supports the development of a Digital Competence Framework for SMEs and microbusinesses in the Eastern Partner countries, as well as organisation of trainings, conferences and study visits to EU Member States for policy makers and training providers to disseminate EU practices.